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Chemours To Pay $13 Million To The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality For Years Of PFAS Pollution

Chemours To Pay $13 Million To The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality For Years Of PFAS Pollution

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Our Water Nerds have been closely following the environmental and public health disaster in North Carolina for a while now. This article provides an overview of the recent consent order, and some background information on what's going on in North Carolina. 

The Chemours Plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina has been discharging various per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) for decades. PFAS are a category of emerging contaminants that are found in some of the most popular consumer products such as Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and other stain/water resistant products. PFAS is also an important ingredient in firefighting foam, which has been a major source of water contamination throughout the country. In recent years, a replacement chemical for PFOA called GenX has dominated the conversation, particularly in North Carolina. In November 2018, EPA admitted that GenX is “suggestive” of cancer, which is significant for residents who have been unknowingly exposed.

$13 Million Awarded to NCDEQ

Chemours is awarding $13 million to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in the form of civil penalties and investigative costs. In comparison to other PFAS-related settlements, this is by far one of the smallest. In early 2018, 3M paid the state of Minnesota $850 Million in environmental degradation. In 2017, DuPont was involved in a $670.7 million settlement in the Mid-Ohio Valley region for PFAS pollution.

Overview Of The Consent Order

The Consent Order clearly lays out a timeline of air emission goals and wastewater discharge stipulations. Chemours’ National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit was revoked in early 2017 and the new Consent Order prohibits any sort of wastewater discharge until a NPDES permit is reallocated. Chemours must also create laboratory methods and test standards for all PFAS compounds released by the Fayetteville plant. Basic remediation plans must be agreed upon by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina River Keepers, and Chemours. Chemours will also pay for water filtration for water filtration for residents on private wells. Concentrations of GenX must be above 140 parts per trillion or any updated health advisory, in order to be eligible for a filter. GenX is not the only PFAS compound detected in the Cape Fear area, and the consent order addresses that. the Residents can also be eligible for filtration if other PFAS compounds are detected in well water over 10 parts per trillion individually, and 70 parts per trillion combined. NCDEQ is currently seeking public comment regarding the recent settlement.

How Are Cape Fear Residents Responding?

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) created a comprehensive breakdown of the Chemours consent order. The utility provider acknowledged that the settlement did not go far enough to cover the scope of GenX and PFAS pollution in the Cape Fear area. In a press release, CFPUA talked about how the consent order did not acknowledge the PFAS sediment pollution at the bottom of the Cape Fear River. Any sort of dredge or fill could disturb the sediment and create GenX concentrations to sky rocket in drinking water. Local non-profit groups are also not in agreement with the Chemours settlement because they believe it does not go far enough to mitigate the scope of contamination. The current consent order places most of the mitigative costs water utility providers which would of course be paid for by taxpayers.

Our Take:

In early November of 2018, EPA released a draft toxicity report for GenX, proposing a threshold of 80 parts per trillion for drinking water. The concentration deemed “safe” by North Carolina and Chemours is almost two times higher than what the EPA is proposing as safe. Health and regulatory agencies know very little about the adverse health effects of GenX and other PFAS compounds. It’s up to consumers to decide the best course of action to protect themselves and their families.

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BREAKING: EPA Admits GenX Linked To Cancer

BREAKING: EPA Admits GenX Linked To Cancer

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Our blog has been following PFAS contaminants such as GenX for months now, often reporting on new developments before mainstream news. Today marks an important milestone: EPA has released a draft toxicity profile for GenX. This long-awaited toxicity report contains critical information for many states who have been seeking answers on this harmful contaminant.

EPA’s Draft Toxicity Assessments for GenX and PFBS:

EPA determined a candidate Chronic Reference Dose of 0.00008 mg/kg-day, or 80 parts per trillion. A reference dose is the daily oral intake not anticipated to cause negative health effects over a lifetime. A reference dose is not a carcinogenic risk factor, however, EPA states that the toxicity data for GenX are “suggestive of cancer.” According to the draft report, oral exposure in animals had negative health effects on the kidney, blood, immune system, developing fetus, and liver. The draft toxicity report also provided information on PFBS, which is a replacement chemical for PFOS. The candidate Chronic Reference Dose for PFBS is 0.01 mg/kg-day, and there was insufficient data to determine its carcinogenic potential.

What Is GenX?

GenX is part of a category of contaminants called PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. GenX has gained national attention since being discovered in the Cape Fear River in June of 2017. PFAS have historically been used in consumer products like Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and even the inside of popcorn bags. PFAS are also used in firefighting foam, which is the major source of its pollution in waterways across the country.

Background:

The Chemours plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina produces refrigerants, ion exchange membranes, and other fluoroproducts. They have been discharging liquid effluent into the Cape Fear River for years, which has contaminated drinking water for the entire area. GenX is the replacement chemical for PFOA. After PFOA was discovered to be toxic, manufacturers addressed the issue by making an equally-as toxic replacement. Manufacturers of PFAS have been doing this for years, which is why there are so many different variations present in the environment.

Is GenX Federally Regulated By EPA?

No. This means that municipalities are not required to test for GenX or PFBS. Additionally, this draft toxicity level is not a lifetime health advisory level, which states would be more inclined to follow.

When Will A Drinking Water Standard Be Determined?

Don’t hold your breath on anytime soon! The regulatory process can take decades, especially for such a persistent contaminant in the environment. This is more than enough time for adverse health effects to set in, and we recommend consumers do everything they can to learn about their water and protect themselves, rather than wait for the government to step in.

What Does This Mean For Me?

EPA is in the very early stages of determining a regulation or even health advisory for GenX. This draft toxicity level needs to go through public comment so that states, tribes, and municipalities can offer input and recommendations. If you want to see third-party data on filters that remove GenX and other PFAS, click HERE. 

Other Articles About GenX:
Timeline: GenX In North Carolina
ASTDR Toxicological Profile for PFAS
GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know
Surface Water: What You Need To Know

Surface Water: What You Need To Know

 

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Surface water is an extremely important natural resource. From the water we drink, give to our pets, and use for recreation, we are dependent on its various uses. Surface water is continuously being threatened by anthropogenic activities. It’s extremely difficult and costly for municipal treatment facilities to keep up with new contaminants that are polluting waterways every single day. Additionally, federal regulations don’t reflect the large scope of surface water pollution. This blog post discusses the various threats to surface water and why humans should care.

What Is Surface Water?

Lakes, oceans, streams, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands are the various types of surface water. Freshwater sources are responsible for providing potable drinking water to 84% of the nations population. Surface water is different from groundwater because it has the ability to disperse and become diluted as it travels throughout a body of water.  Groundwater aquifers are essentially holding tanks for highly concentrated contamination. There’s less room for contaminants to move around, and less volume for the contamination to become less concentrated. 

How Does Surface Water Become Polluted?

Surface water is extremely susceptible to pollution because it occupies such a large portion of the earth’s surface. Surface water pollution is almost entirely the result of human activities. Agriculture, mining, factory effluent, landfills, human/animal waste and localized pollution are just some of the most common sources of surface water pollution. Topography and geological formations create natural surface water runoff, but human manipulation of the land increases flow rates and overall contamination.

  • Point source pollution comes from an easily identifiable source, like a factory or sewage treatment plant. Point source pollution is discharged through a pipeline, ditch, or any “discrete conveyance” that directly or indirectly enters a body of water. Point sources are typically regulated by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

  • Non-point source pollution is much harder to regulate because the source is not easily identifiable. Agricultural and stormwater runoff are the two most common types of nonpoint source pollution. Heavy rain events cause contaminants to runoff from roads and fields, collecting debris and pollution as it travels into a body of water.

How Do You Mitigate Surface Water Pollution?

It’s expensive and nearly impossible to mitigate a contaminant once it has entered surface water. For some contaminants, the solution is typically self-mitigating. A contaminant will become diluted to extremely small concentrations after it has traveled and dispersed throughout a body of water. Additionally, some contaminants are still extremely toxic at very small concentrations. There are also several persistent contaminants that never fully decompose in nature (PCBs, DDT and Dioxin), or take hundreds of years to degrade. As we’ve seen in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Maplewood, Minnesota, municipal water treatment facilities are only equipped to remove certain types and quantities of surface water contamination.

What Is Currently The Biggest Threat To Surface Water?

Man-made compounds are one of the largests threats to drinking water sources. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of man-made “emerging contaminants,” which means they have been detected in the environment but the risk to human health is not well-understood. Chemicals such as GenX, PFOA, and PFOS are all common contaminants that fall under the category of PFAS. DuPont, Chemours, and 3M have been using variations of these chemicals in industrial and consumer products since the early 1950’s. Scotchgard, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, heat/water repellent chemicals, and stain resistant fabrics are common uses of PFAS. They are extremely persistent in the environment, which means they do not readily degrade. PFAS effluent is either directly dumped from a factory into surface water or a dug ditch, which will then percolate into groundwater. This is allowed because PFAS are unregulated by the federal government.

North Carolina’s Cape Fear River has been unknowingly  experiencing surface water contamination for years. A Chemours plant located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, had been discharging various types of PFAS into the Cape Fear River since the 1980's.  The Cape Fear is the primary drinking water source for residents of Brunswick and New Hanover County. Their water resource is now tainted with a dangerous contaminant that's unregulated by the federal government. 

Algal Blooms and Surface Water

Algal blooms are another major threat to surface water. An influx of nutrients or heat can increase the quantity of algae. Often, this overload of nutrients is the result of agricultural fertilizer runoff. Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs occur after an influx of nutrients or a sudden increase in water temperature. HABs can then produce cyanotoxins, which are harmful to humans and the environment.

How Can I Protect Surface Water?

Protecting surface water from contamination will not only improve drinking water quality, but also valuable habitats. Here are some tips for local level surface water management:
  • Watershed Management: Municipalities should look at watersheds as an entire system, rather than exclusively a water resource. Watershed management surveys the land surrounding a body of water to determine the natural flows and influxes.
  • Eliminating Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers: What’s bad for plants and animals, is also bad for humans. This category of surface water pollution runs-off directly into surrounding bodies of water and effects fragile surface water ecosystems. Reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers will reduce the amount of necessary additives by municipal water treatment facilities to eliminate contaminants.
  • Reduce Impervious Surfaces: Impervious surface is any type of ground cover that prevents water from infiltrating into the ground. Pavement or asphalt is the best example. Impervious surface increases runoff flow rates into surface water, and prevents groundwater from naturally filtering contaminants. Next time you’re thinking about paving your driveway, consider a pervious alternative such as porous asphalt or pervious concrete.
  • Hold Municipalities Accountable: Stay current with commercial and industrial development within your community. Public comment periods are required prior to development and prior to obtaining a NPDES permit. Companies are required to address each question and concern individually, so if development plans raise personal concern, don’t be afraid to utilize the public comment period.
Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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    Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

    Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

    ***Updated 8/29/18 to include video***

    Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

    Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been receiving a ton of media attention throughout this past year. PFAS are a category of toxic contaminants that have invaded public and private drinking water systems across the entire country. Military bases are extremely susceptible to this type of contamination because of necessary on-base activities. If you would like to learn more about what PFAS are, their health effects, and if they're regulated, please click here. 

    Why Do Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

    Military bases have historically had issues with pollution, due to the nature of on-base activities. Municipal fire departments also travel to nearby military bases because they provide an open, secure area to train. So not only are military personnel being directly exposed to PFAS, but so are local fire departments. The Department of Defence isn’t necessarily to blame for the high rates of contamination on military bases. The Manufacturers of PFAS-containing fire fighting foam who actively sell to the DOD are greatly at fault. Because there is no effective alternative on the market, the military has no choice but to continue purchasing and using these products. Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t use the precautionary principle in chemical manufacturing. This means that chemicals are introduced to the market before toxicological due diligence is completed. Most of the time it takes someone getting extremely sick for manufacturers to even begin to pay attention.

    More often than not, military bases have their own underground private wells that provide drinking water to families living on base, rather than being apart of a public drinking water system. Fire fighting foam can either directly percolate into soil, or run off into surrounding surface water sources. Water from contaminated soil naturally recharges on-base drinking water wells, which families consume on a daily basis.

    What Is The Department of Defense Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on Military Bases?

    The most recent data provided by the DOD stated that 99% people receiving non-DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations, whereas only 89% of people receiving DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations. It’s important to note that these data are from bases that voluntarily tested for PFAS, but they do however reiterate that military bases have higher concentrations of this contaminant than other areas in the country. In October of 2017, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Department of Defense has taken action on PFAS. DOD has directly shut down wells or provided filtration to 11 military installations. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are over 400 military bases in the United States that are still contaminated. Approximately 3 million people in the US drink water provided by the DOD. Not only are active military personnel at risk, husbands, wives and children and are being adversely impacted by PFAS. Again, manufacturers of these dangerous chemicals are mostly to blame for such high concentrations of PFAS contamination in drinking water.

    What Are Public Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

    EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits that municipalities are not required to follow. DOD has not developed their own standard for PFAS in drinking water and therefore follow the non-enforceable national level of 70 parts per trillion. DOD is not at all incentivized to create a standard or even test for PFAS, because of the outrageous mitigation expenses.

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    Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

    Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

    Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

    This past year, GenX, Per and Polyfluroalkyl Substances (PFAS), and other contaminants that fall into the broader category of Perfluorinated Compounds, have received major media coverage. Information regarding municipal water quality can quickly become obscured, so the goal of this article is to summarize key news components and scientific data.

    Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

    Sunday, July 29th, the Governor’s office announced a state of emergency for residents in the City of Parchment and Cooper Township, Michigan. Kalamazoo County Health Department detected PFAS in Parchments drinking water supply at concentrations as high as 1,587 parts per trillion. For a bit of perspective, this is almost 23 times higher than the Lifetime Health Advisory Level set by EPA and 79 times higher than the Minimum Risk Level set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.  

    City officials stated that the next course of action involves draining Parchments entire water supply. The City of Kalamazoo will then connect their water system to Parchment, and begin flushing the system until levels are below the Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion. Residents are being advised to not drink Parchment municipal water until further notice. The City of Parchment sources its drinking water from 3 groundwater wells in Cooper Township. Kalamazoo also uses groundwater, which is highly susceptible to this same type of contamination. Additionally, because this category of contaminants is unregulated, municipalities are not required to test for it. Kalamazoo did not test for PFAS in their most recent Consumer Confidence Report.

    What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

    Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of “emerging contaminants,” which means they have been detected in the environment but the risk to human health is unknown. GenX, PFOA, and PFOS are all common contaminants that fall under the category of PFAS. These compounds have been used in industrial and consumer products since the early 1950’s. Scotchgard, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, heat/water repellent products, and stain resistant fabrics are associated with this category of contaminants. PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment, which means they are highly resistant to degradation processes.

    Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Regulated?

    No. The entire class of contaminants is currently unregulated. This means that municipalities and state agencies are not required to test for it.

    What Are The Health Effects of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

    According to a study done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), PFAS exposure is associated with various adverse health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, lowered fertility rates, increased cholesterol, and developmental issues in infants and young children.

    What Are Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

    EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits. As we know, the regulatory process in the United States can take decades, so these values should be taken with a grain of salt. Several types of PFAS appeared on the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which is the only progress we’ve seen in terms of regulating this category of contaminants.

    Want To Learn More About Perfluorinated Compounds?

    Take advantage of Hydroviv's “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Go to hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Our Water Nerds will gladly answer any questions you might have regarding PFAS or anything else water related. If you live in Michigan and want more information about PFAS in your area, we recommend reaching out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Toxicology Hotline at 800-648-6942.

    Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy:
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    Breaking: ATSDR Releases Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances

    Breaking: ATSDR Releases Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances

    Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

    The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) just released a draft toxicological profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances such as PFOA and PFOS. This category of emerging contaminants have flooded news headlines this past year, even though they've been persistent in the environment since the 1950’s. PFOA and PFOS are ingredients used in the production of non-stick materials like Scotchgaurd, Teflon, and firefighting foam. The risk to human health is "unknown" but exposure has been linked to various types of cancer, developmental issues, and preeclampsia in laboratory animals. 

    June 20, 2018 ATSDR Toxicological Study for Perfluoroalkyls 

    Municipalities across the country have been demanding that government agencies expedite toxicological reports for this dangerous class of contaminants. Wilmington, North Carolina and several Michigan municipalities are just some of the locations that have been severely impacted by perfluoroalkyl contamination. Unfortunately, GenX, the most popular PFAS was not included in this particular toxicity study. This toxicological profile included provisional Minimal Risk Levels for both PFOA and PFOS. A Minimal Risk Level (MRL) is a non-enforceable standard, similar to an EPA health advisory level. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommended reducing EPA’s non-enforceable health advisory from 70 parts per trillion to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. This means municipalities across the country may be in exceedance with this new health recommendation, so people should stay current with public notices in their area. 

    Are Perfluoroalkyls Now Regulated? 

    It’s important to note that this toxicity study does not mean that PFOA and PFOS contaminants are now regulated. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry can only make recommendations and provide scientific data regarding this class of contaminants. It’s now up to regulatory agencies to comb through these data and make decisions to ensure that public health is protected. The regulatory process in this country, especially for toxic substances, can take upwards of decades. A regulation proposed by EPA or CDC could take years to draft and even longer before it’s enforceable.

    Our Water Nerds are working around the clock to help make sense of this 852 page document. We’ll be reviewing the document and providing information on our Youtube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Make sure to subscribe and follow Water Nerd TV on Facebook to stay up to date!

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